Black carbon—a major climate pollutant—also linked to cardiovascular health

August 25, 2014
Credit: Wikipedia

Black carbon pollutants from wood smoke are known to trap heat near the earth's surface and warm the climate. A new study led by McGill Professor Jill Baumgartner suggests that black carbon may also increase women's risk of cardiovascular disease.

To investigate the effects of black carbon pollutants on the health of women cooking with traditional wood stoves, Baumgartner, a researcher at McGill's Institute for the Health and Social Policy, measured the daily exposure to different types of air pollutants, including black carbon, in 280 women in China's rural Yunnan province.

Baumgartner and her team focused on the of that are emitted from sources that are common in developing countries. "China's unprecedented economic growth is fuelling massive increases in industrial and motor vehicle pollution, and 700 million Chinese homes still cook with wood and coal fuels. The Chinese government is setting new targets to improve its air quality. We wanted to identify the pollution sources that most impact human health to help inform these pollution control efforts." says Baumgartner.

The researchers outfitted women with wearable air samplers that collected fine , a size linked with adverse health effects. The particulate samples were then analyzed for different pollutant types, including black carbon. The women's , salt intake, physical activity, body mass index, and their proximity to highways were also measured.

"We found that exposure to black carbon pollutants had the largest impact on women's blood pressure, which directly impacts cardiovascular risk. In fact, black carbon's effect was twice that of particulate matter, the pollutant measured most often in health studies or evaluating cleaner cookstoves," says Baumgartner. "Black carbon from wood burning is considered very important for climate warming. Our research shows that it may also be an important pollutant for health."

In addition, the researchers found that women living closer to highways and exposed to both and traffic emissions had three times higher blood pressure than women who lived away from highways.

Adds Baumgartner, "We found that from wood smoke negatively affects cardiovascular health, and that the health effects off wood smoke are exacerbated by co-exposure to motor vehicle emissions. Policies that decrease combustion pollution by replacing inefficient wood stoves and reducing traffic pollution will likely benefit both climate and public health".

Explore further: Home cooking, traffic are sources of key air pollutants from China

More information: "Highway proximity and black carbon from cookstoves as a risk factor for higher blood pressure in rural China," by Jill Baumgartner et al. PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1317176111

Related Stories

Meeting the global need for clean cook stoves

May 19, 2014

At some point, everyone's ancestors depended on a three-stone fire. It's exactly what the name suggests: three stones of roughly the same size that hold cookware over an open flame.

Still a lot to learn about India's deadly air pollution

August 12, 2014

What exactly is the relationship between exposure to air pollution and its effect on human health? How much cleaner would the air have to be to reduce the health burden of dirty air? Can cities be designed so as to minimize ...

Cutting emissions pays for itself, research shows

August 24, 2014

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in ...

Recommended for you

Ice sheets may be more resilient than thought

September 3, 2015

Sea level rise poses one of the biggest threats to human systems in a globally warming world, potentially causing trillions of dollars' worth of damages to flooded cities around the world. As surface temperatures rise, ice ...

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2014
Adds Baumgartner, "We found that black carbon from wood smoke negatively affects cardiovascular health, and that the health effects off wood smoke are exacerbated by co-exposure to motor vehicle emissions. Policies that decrease combustion pollution by replacing inefficient wood stoves and reducing traffic pollution will likely benefit both climate and public health"

I wonder what this would look like in a side-by-side comparison reviewing the health statistics of farm women living in the same area as Amish women ?

Although there is a huge difference in lifestyle/work volume, given the similar environmental exposures with the Amish wood cook stoves and climate controlled houses we may be able to run that review here in the US and pull out some interesting data

especially if they choose to select from various Amish communities all over the US for varying environmental exposures
mpowergiacoletti
not rated yet Aug 28, 2014
A study should be done on the men who run barbecue pits (restaurants, events) and then
go home and sit by the increasingly popular fire pit. Or gather some of the southern California bonfire enthusiasts and compare their cardiovascular health to men in India, who have a 50%
chance of having a heart attack before the age of 50. We are truly going backwards.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.